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Improving communication between East African couples to address public health issues
Happy relationships where couples communicate effectively could help curb potentially life-threatening health issues in East Africa. That’s the logic behind Aiisseee!, a communications effort spearheaded by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Program, US government agency USAID- and Tanzanian new media production company Khanga Rue in Dar es Salaam.
Aiisseee! is an innovative, multimedia programme to encourage behaviour change in East Africa. The title refers to a common Swahili expression of surprise (I say). Using radio, TV, and social media, Aiisseee! focuses on connecting couples with light-hearted quizzes and games about their relationship. The long-term idea here is that if couples can address issues around their relationship together, it gives them a solid foundation from which they can tackle other, more serious health concerns that affect everyone in East Africa.
Those health challenges include maternal health, HIV testing and contraception, issues require good communication between couples. In other words, as the case study video above points out, partners needed to get better at being couples.
A radio game show, also called Aiisseee was devised so that couples could learn truths about each other. This weekly show recorded couples talking about each other, sharing discoveries they made about each other after getting married and what their expectations were (for instance, how much they want a partner to demonstrate their love in public.
The part-game, part-documentary radio show, which broadcast on Clouds FM, became a hit because it fostered a comfort level of communication for couples. Couples could also play the games they heard on the radio via Facebook. The Aiisseee community page has attracted 66,209 Likes and is adding approximately 12,000 users every month. Khanga Rue estimates that more than two million listeners tuned into the weekly radio show and is confident that those number will triple when the show transfers to TV later this month.
Contagious Insight /
Entertainment as education / This content-led approach to a health issue is a new departure. The Aiissseee radio show and accompanying Facebook page have attracted decent numbers and the fact that the show is to be made into a TV show is testament to the strength of the original concept. Laughter can be a powerful tool and if it helps health messages penetrate the target market - and assist people in having healthier relationships - that ’s surely a win-win.
Life-saving strategy / According to UNODC, East Africa is the second most affected region by HIV and AIDS in the world after South Africa. Humanosphere reports that Eastern and Southern sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 55% of total deaths from HIV/AIDS in 2013. And across Eastern and Southern Africa, more than 50,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year, accounting for more than one fifth of all such deaths in the world. These are serious health issues that many NGOs are addressing. The difference here is that Aiisseee places faith in couples as strong units to address them together rather than bombarding them en masse with over-familiar stats or messages that just end up as wallpaper.
Softly, softly / This softer approach to health issues could be far more effective in the long run than finger-wagging and lecturing. This is certainly the ethos of the Stockholm-based Non Smoking Generation, which aims to prevent 16,000 teens from taking up cigarettes every year with powerful imagery like the one below. The organisation’s rationale for these images is that the ‘smoking kills’ message has no impact anymore. Young people need other messages if they’re going to change their behaviour.
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